Last Sunday the states of Baden-Württemberg, Sachsen-Anhalt and Rheinland-Pfalz held elections for the state parliament. There are 16 states in Germany and their elections are usually out of sync with the national elections which are in turn out of sync with the local council elections. Somewhere in between the European elections take place but nobody really bothers to turn up for them (contrary to Telegraph columnists’ opinions, most Germans are fairly apathetic towards the EU).
This all means that somewhere there is always an election campaign going on and that the media are constantly working themselves up into a frenzy about what this all means for the next general election. Once the votes have been cast, the results are usually finalised by about 9pm (German efficiency) and then the fun starts – coalition talks. In Germany there is no first past the post system and it is rare that a single party has an overall majority so the only way to rule is to form a coalition.
When I first arrived in Germany in 1991, there were really only two coalitions likely. It was either going to be a right-wing coalition between the CDU and the FDP (called the Liberals, but also a “low-tax, small government” party) or a left-wing coalition between the SPD and the Green Party. All the traditional parties have their own colour too – the CDU is black, FDP is yellow, SPD is red and the Greens are… green. The coalitions are then known as Schwarz/Gelb (black/yellow) or Rot/Grün (red/green).
The CDU and SPD used to dominate the political landscape but as Germany got used to reunification and the horrors of the old East Germany were gradually forgotten, more radical left-wing parties started to appear. Then the Greens started to get more powerful (ironically in the most built-up cities such as Stuttgart). Then the Euro started wobbling so independence parties started popping up which then mutated into the AfD which is now running as an anti-immigration outfit.
This has all made the coalition business more complicated. Often it is impossible for two parties that like each other to gain a majority. So they have to think of threesomes. The media love this because they get to think up new names for these coalitions. For example Greens, FDP and SPD is an “Ampel Koalition” – named after a traffic light. Or CDU, FDP and Greens is a “Jamaica Koalition” – named after the Jamaican flag. If the old arch-enemies CDU and SPD get together then it’s just called the “Große Koalition” . That’s my favourite type of government. Nothing gets done because they can’t agree on anything so the economy does quite well.
The far left, ex-communist party and the now far right AfD have trouble getting into coalitions because the established parties all state beforehand that they would never go into a coalition agreement with such radical parties. I think the real reason they struggle to find coalition partners is because they don’t have their own colour yet. I think the AfD should get blue and team up with the CDU so we could have the Black ‘n’ Blue coalition. A “young, internet-freedom-based party” called The Pirates popped up in the last regional elections and did quite well getting the protest vote. But they have now collapsed because their flag was obviously black and the CDU already had that colour reserved.
Anyway, I will be avoiding the radio for the next three weeks until all the parties have stopped dancing around their handbags and formed coalitions. Then they get into power, we hear nothing more of them and somehow life goes on exactly as it did before.
P.S. Please leave comments if you enjoyed reading this. If not, don’t. It will encourage me to keep writing. Thanks. MW